Mysteries of the Moon

The moon sits high in the sky. All of us have admired it, but only some of us have explored its mysteries. It is the other part of the pagan holidays. Each full and dark moon serves its own purposes. Here we’re specifically talking about the full moon however.  The moon is important to the cycle of the Earth.  It manages the waves and even has an effect on a woman’s menstrual cycle.

There are thirteen moons every year.  Each month has a moon and the thirteenth is called the Witches’ moon. Whenever there are two full moons in a month the second one is the Witches’ moon. It has another name as well. It is also called the Blue moon.  The thirteenth moon is a part of the reason why magick is associated with the number thirteen.  It is also the reason other cultures have attributed it to bad luck; it is the interloper, an extra moon.

Most esbats are held on the night of the full moon preferably outside. I don’t know many people who get to do this, but if you have the privacy enjoy it.  Of course, weather is not always permitting and usually if that occurs, most groups will meet before the full moon and as close to the actual date as possible.  And some groups meet on both the New and the Full moons.

So what are the Esbats about? Well first of all they are about our connection to the world, magick and others. More specifically however, there are two other related reasons.  First, they still honor the Goddess and the God, particularly related to either the dark or full moon. Second, they celebrate the mysteries of life through those Goddesses and Gods.

The Moon and Magick

As mentioned earlier, the moon has a remarkable effect on people and animals. Pet owners often see weird behavior from some of their pets on the full moon.  And some witches claim to have heightened awareness of magick and the world.  Miles Betty, in Teaching Witchcraft, says that we celebrate the Esbat because of the profound affect the moon has on us.

As a rule, spells for prosperity, luck and positive goals are best done as the moon grows full while spells for removing things should be done closer to the dark viewing of the moon.  As the moon is a reflection of the sun’s light some traditions use “moon mirrors” in their magick. I honestly don’t know a lot about moon mirrors, but I hope to eventually find a good source on what they are and what they are used for. If anyone has any good sites on this please let me know. I would love to look at them. The only thing mentioned in the book is scrying, but I’m sure there are other purposes to such a tool.

We’ll talk more about scrying in a later post.

In addition to the usual ritual (a post coming up in a few weeks) during the full moon there is something specific that many groups do. It’s called Drawing Down the Moon.  In this portion of the full moon ritual the high Priestess stands receptive as the maiden guides “collected” moon powers into the Goddess.  So essentially, you are channeling the Goddess.

Having seen it done by my previous mentor, it isn’t something that I suggest just anyone do. It is still a wonderful thing to watch if you can find someone who can do it well.  And for naysayers, no it isn’t a show. If you are pagan and can feel the energies of the world around you, you can tell when someone is seriously doing this or just faking it.

Man and the Mystery of the Moon

For millennia, the moon has fascinated man.  There is a reason the word lunacy and lunatic comes from the words for moon.  At one point schizophrenia was blamed on the moon.  Medieval scientist even went so far as to dissect human brains trying to understand the moon. At one point they thought that the two lobes of the brain mirrored the light and dark moon. Of course, they realized this wasn’t the case, but is it so hard to see how it might have happened?

And what about the people who behave differently on the full moon? There isn’t any reliable evidence, but we’ve all seen it, if we really think about it.  It does seem like there are more crimes committed around the full moon. Or at least that was a superstition or theory (whichever you prefer) in the past.  At one point a woman’s menstrual cycle was considered to be powerful and was often associated with the moon.  There were even cultures that once locked away women during their period until they returned to normal. It was because of that very theory.

The point being that the moon has always held mystery for man and still does.

Theories of the Moon

Now that we’ve talked about humans and the mysteries of the moon explored in the past, let’s talk science.  We do know about its composition. We know that it’s there, but even science can’t explain all the mysteries of the moon.  Let me give you a practical example. It regards the moons origin.

Mystical energies aside, what do we know about the moon? In all honesty it is a bit of a mystery itself. There are several theories as to how it came to be, but none of them work quite right. Space.com has an article on this; however, I find it amusing that for once, Wikipedia was far more useful in this case. So if you’re interested, just look of origin of the moon on Wikipedia.

Why don’t they make sense? Well I’ll try to keep it short. First is a collision between two planetary bodies. It calls for a glancing blow between Earth and Theia.  This accounts for the moons iron core and an otherwise similar composition to Earth, but not the rise in temperature of part of the Earth (up to 18000 F). It also doesn’t explain the moon’s volatile elements not being as depleted as would be expected had this happened.  There are some other issues, and no upgrades to the theory have solved them. Check out Wikipedia for more info.

A second theory is that the moon was captured by the Earth. However, one of three things would have had to happen if this were the case. Either the Earth needed an extended atmosphere, there would have been a collision of planetary bodies, or a great divergence of the course.  Which some say may explain the abnormal orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.

Other theories include fission, accretion, and the existence of a second moon (we somehow took a moon from Venus).  The point being that we really don’t know much about the moon. We know its size. We know its gravity.  And we know that it dictates our tides. Finally, we know that its relation to the sun and the Earth dictate whether we see it as full or new.

But there are still a lot of mysteries surrounding the moon.

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Mabon

Mabon is the second harvest, which usually occurs in late September. For the purpose of our wheel of the year, it takes place on the 21st.  It is the Autumn Equinox. The second and last time in which the days will be equally balanced in each year.  The God is still with us, but his strength is still diminishing.  As he grows old he is looking towards Samhain when he will cross the veil and the cycle completes. And there he will remain until he is born once more.

The Reason for the Season

This is the time of completion for any magickal workings you may have been fostering since Litha.  It’s also considered the winding down of the pagan wheel of the year.  While Ostara is a time for starting new things, Mabon is a time to settle old debts or obligations. It is a time to make peace with yourself despite what you may or may not have accomplished.

It is a time of Earth related magicks and of course, more self-reflection.  Many people take time during Mabon to look back on the past year, or even their entire life thus far. They look to see where they come from so that they can plan for their future. It is also a time to rest and celebrate. The hard work of the harvest is either over or nearly over.

The Name of the Season

The name of this holiday is derived from a Welsh God.  He was a powerful hunter with a swift horse and a wonderful hound. There are some historians who have tried to determine if he could have been a real leader or not. Of course, some say yes and others say no. Such is the way of things. The story goes that he was stolen from his mother when he was three nights old. In the legends he is stolen by Mordon, the great mother.

Eventually he is recused by King Arthur, the Blackbird, the Stag, the Owl, the Eagle, or the Salmon.  It just depends on the legend as to which one it is.  However, Mabon never felt like a captive. He was mothered by Mordon in her private magick otherworld, which symbolizes her womb.  In the legend this was the only way that he and the Earth could be reborn. This essentially makes him a God similar to the Goddess Persephone who represents the growth of the world withdrawing.  Here Mordon corresponds with Demeter.

I just have to say how amazing it is that so many different cultures have so many different stories that are all variations on the same themes. It just goes to show you that we really are the same and that we need to work harder towards common ground with those who we don’t understand.

In addition to the story of Mabon, there is also a story of Lugh related to this holiday. This is the time of the year when the God of Light (Lugh) is defeated by the God of Darkness, his twin and alter ego, Tanist. Night conquers day and the legend even says that this is the only night on which he can be defeated.

According to Two Pagans “Lugh stands on the balance (Autumn Equinox-Libra) with one foot on the goat (Winter Solstice-Capricorn) and the other on the cauldron (Summer Solstice-Cancer). He is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, the Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio).”

Two things occur with Lugh’s defeat. First, Tanist takes the place of king and lover to the Goddess Tailltiu. But while he sits on the throne, his induction does not take place until Samhain, the beginning of winter in the Celtic mythos.  There he is crowned as the Dark King and Winter Lord or Lord of Misrule.  He will mate with Talltiu, who will give birth to another incarnation of Tanist, the Dark Child.

Once again a variation on a theme. This story is very similar to that of the Oak and Holly Kings. Anyway, I love connecting mythology to holiday.  It can be so helpful in understanding why different cultures celebrate certain holidays in the way that they do.

Magick of Mabon

This is a time of year to do spells related to protection, prosperity, security, and self-confidence. Also, as it’s a time of reflection, it’s also a good time to do magick related to harmony and balance within yourself or others (with their permission only of course).

And as always, my other source here is Teaching Witchcraft by Miles Batty.  If you haven’t looked into getting a copy for yourself already, you really should. It’s on my top list of pagan resources and information. It’s probably one of the most complete books of information. It isn’t perfect for every tradition, but it’s a great starting point for someone looking to explore the craft.  It’s also a great teaching point if you want a multi-faceted view of the God and Goddess and the world around us.  Eventually, as I delve deeper into the mysteries of the craft, I plan to share some of my other favorite books (most of which I had never heard of until introduced to them by my late mentor).

Sabbats in a Modern Society?

Now that we’ve finished going over the Sabbats I want to touch on a few other things related to them. I’ll keep it brief. Promise. Most places show the Sabbats as agricultural festivals, with harvests, and a lot of stuff that most of us know very little to nothing about.  However, the Sabbat is about far more than that and there are many ways in which we can meld a bit of the old with the ways of the new.  Even if you don’t live on a farm, even if you don’t have a patch of grass on your lawn, you can still find a way to celebrate the symbolism of each season.

Sabbats can still have meaning and significance in your life. It’s just a matter of finding a way to hold that significance in your heart in a modern era. For me that means a lot of nature walks and communicating with nature. It also means crafts and cooking foods related to the season. I don’t call myself a kitchen witch, but a lot of my celebration is crafting and cooking.  My personal rituals are often very short and end in meditation (which is hard to do with a kid).

So with a little thought, imagination, creativity, or even some research on the web, everyone can find some way to celebrate the Wheel of the Year.

Thanks once again for reading and I hope you have a magickal Friday.

Blessed Be.

Lughnassadh

So welcome to the second to last post in this series. Tonight we’re talking about Aug 2nd. It is Lughnassadh, (pronounced Loo-nah-sad) a name that comes from ancient Celtic. In the Celtic traditions it is a celebration of Lugh, a Celtic sun God. He was the leader of the Irish Fey, the Danaan. And if any of you know your Celtic mythology, this most likely sounds at least partially familiar. You may have heard the term Tuatha de Danann which means people of the Danaan.

This holiday represents a sacrifice on the part of the god.  He gives his strength to the Goddess and begins to age and die.  His weakening signifies the growing cold coming in the fall and leading us into winter.  His decay represents that of which we all see in the world such as the leaves turning colors and the evening chill that only gets colder as the season goes on.  Now, remember that these observances began in Northern Europe, where the climate is cooler at this time of year. While we may still be enjoying warmer days here in the States, we are just starting to notice the summer getting cooler and fading into fall.

This festival is also generally the time of the first harvest.  This is when the farmers gather the first reaping of their crops and, back in the old days, everyone would share and celebrate the bounty they had received.  It is also when the first batch of animals would be slaughtered to begin curing for the long winter ahead.

Many cultures believed that the first loaves of bread baked from the harvest were particularly magickal.  They believed that the bread contained the full potency of the Lord and Lady and as such, they would tear off a piece of each off and drop it to the ground as a thanks for what they had been given.  Others buried it, but the thought is still the same. This is where the other name for this holiday came from. Lammas is from the Old English for Loaf and Mass.

Lammas/Lughnassadh is also a time for reflection.  It is a festival of regrets and farewells in addition to the celebration of the harvest.  There are some people who project these feelings into natural objects such as pine cones and toss them into the fire, so they can release those regrets.  Others write them on corn husks and burn them.

It is a time to say goodbye while remembering that there really are no goodbyes. The world always comes full circle. So you can plant a bulb that will renew itself in the spring if you are of green thumb.  It’s also when my grandmother and I would make preserves and remember the great moments of the year, holding onto those thoughts so that we never lost them.

Every year when it’s canning season I think of her and wish that I had paid more attention. I swear one of these days I’ll learn how to can so I can carry on the tradition with my own daughter and hopefully her daughter after her. My grandmother wasn’t pagan, but this Sabbat always reminds me of those activities with her.

Magick for Lammas

Magick for this holiday includes rites to reap the harvest of your efforts and focusing on the major decisions you made at Litha.

Activities

Many people make bread, though I know not everyone is kitchen inclined.  If you can’t make bread you can make gingerbread, or corn bread, or heck even popcorn. The idea is to honor the harvest of grains that have been given to us by the bounty of the Lord and Lady.   If you have kids, let them mold the dough (if you are making something with dough) into the shape of a man. Kids will love this and you can teach them about the Lord and Lady/ the cycle of the year.

Corn dolls are another popular activity at this time of year and (with good ol’ directions from the internet) aren’t too hard to make. If you do this with a child you can have a discussion about what they have harvested from their lives or the lessons they have learned so far this year.  If you’re doing it on your own, think of the same things. It’s all a part of the reason for the season.  I’ve seen several families place these dolls on their altars or someplace in the home. Some people even dress them up in clothes they have bought or made.  And if you grow corn, you can plant her with the new crop (or even if you don’t) as a symbol of returning to the earth that which she has given to you.

I hope this post has given you all some food for thought and some ideas on how to celebrate Lammas in just a few months.  As, I said earlier, I plan on doing a bigger post on this next year. Hope you are all having a good week.

Blessed Be.

Summer Solstice: Litha

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We just came back from my favorite local festival…well local as in an hour away, but still my favorite. It’s called Friendship. It’s a flea market with yard sales, discount distributors, and more surrounded by carnival/fair food and late night music around a bonfire. And it just happens to take place in Friendship Indiana.

If anyone lives out this way, I whole heartedly suggest making it out there someday. The Amish come out there and sell their great food products and you get a lot of great deals on stuff (I buy a lot of my jewelry making equipment out there). Most of what I bought this time around was for other people, but I at least got my QuanYin necklace charm this year. Anyway, if you can ever make it they have a website just look up friendship Indiana and its nine days in both June and Sep.

Anyway….

This week we’re down to our final three holidays. After we finish this up I’m going to very briefly go over the Esbats. I don’t want to spend too much time on them because I’m planning on doing a big post on each during the month they occur. So I’m currently planning for that in my posts for the new year…among other things.

Lets get to it.

What is Summer Solstice and why do some people call it LItha?

First of all….this is the longest day of the year and occurs precisely opposite of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.  This is generally around June 21st depending on the cycle of the Earth that year.  This is a very popular festival in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, even if various cultures all have different names for it. It is often associated with a sun God of some sort. According to many legends this is the time of year where the powers of vitality and nature are at their strongest, their peak.  Litha is the day in which the God and Goddess consummate their marriage.

In addition some traditions (depending on which variation they adhere to) use this time to practice the Hieros Gammos or a celebration of this union.   This is also called the Great Rite. In some covens this means that a volunteer couple who are committed to each other (in other groups it may just be two single partners who symbolize the respective deity) make love inside ritual. Usually it occurs in a set aside space. This is why some traditions believe that the God is born at Ostara, because this holiday is nearly nine months from Ostara.

There are other traditions, particularly any Celtic based tradition, which may use this holiday to celebrate and honor the Oak and Holly King.

Magick for Litha

This is a good time to work on emotional or dream related magicks. It’s also a good time to work on spells aimed at promoting fulfillment in your life.  As many of us know, life altering decisions are just that and are not to be taken lightly.  It’s said that LItha is the best time of the year to do spells related to life altering change.

Other Activities

There are also many traditions which believe that the realms of the Faerie are more active at this time of year due to the world being in full bloom.  If you notice keys missing or pets behaving abnormally you may have an elf or fae visiting your home.  And if you are a fan of the fey this would be an excellent time to make a faerie home in your garden with your children or a friend (adults can still use glitter lol). Or just leave an offering of something sweet or shiny for your little visitors. Just leave your presents by the door and they’ll get the message.

As for my family, we celebrated around the fire and I meditated that evening. Sometimes it’s just the simple things that matter and the intention on which you do them with. I like to keep my personal holiday celebrations simple or maybe even artistic, hence the fairy houses and glittery goods on my door step (well not this year. Parents house parent rules).

I just wanted to point out that if you aren’t in a position where you can do much, either due to not being out of the broom closet or other complications in your life, something simple with the right intent can be enough to celebrate the season.

If you want more information on Litha you can visit twopagans.com/holiday/Litha.html for a lot more information on colors, foods, and even some history.

Now I want to share with you my favorite prayer for Litha. You can find a link to the original site here 

 

A Litha Prayer for the Earth

Author unknown

“Great God, Father of the Earth,

Shine down on this, your strongest day.

Blessed Goddess who gave us Birth,

Bless us who honor your ancient way.

As Summer’s light falls to the ground,

lending crops and trees it’s power,

the Summer winds blow warm and round,

touching the corn silk and the flowers.

We give you thanks, our Mother Earth,

We praise you, fire of the Sun.

We dance this Solstice day with Mirth,

from dawns’ first light ’till the day is done.”

That’s all I have for today. I’m planning another set of posts for next year (well starting in October) where we will go into much more detail about each Holiday, activities for the holiday, and maybe even some recipes that have been passed down, if I can get my friend’s permission to post them here.

Until next time

Blessed Be.

Belt it Out for Beltane

So, let’s back track for a moment.  We started on October 31st with Samhain as the beginning of our year.  The God gives his life for the Earth and everyone mourns. We celebrate the thinning of the veil.  Then on December 21st, we have Yule. From this point on we have two divergent paths depending on tradition.  The first is that the Goddess becomes aware of the life within her womb, and there is a promise of new life. The second is that the God is born and begins the new life.

On February 2nd, we have Imbolc/Candlemas. Either the Goddess’s womb swells with life or the God stirs to survey the awakening world. And to catch up to where we are now, we come to March 21st, Ostara. The young God is born anew or the Goddess and the God celebrate the resurrection of the Earth’s vitality. That is the first half of the year. Let’s move on to the second half.

Beltane, May Eve, Walpurgisnacht, and Baltein are among the names for this holiday.  For me it has always been a holiday of music. Something about this holiday makes me want to belt out a tune, hence the title, and dance around a bonfire. Maybe it’s that I often found myself at a local festival on this day doing just that. May 1st, is Beltane.

It celebrates fertility, love, and life all personified in the passions of the Lord and Lady. Which to me not only speaks of carnal love and passion, but of all the arts. Children born or conceived in this season are often considered Goddess Blessed.  In the old days it was a 24 hour celebration beginning at dusk according to Teaching Witchcraft.

It is one of the oldest Sabbats.  It is about awakened powers and it is the counterpart to Samhain.  It is named for Ba’al, the Mesopotamian God of fire.  It is all about passion, heat, and the cleansing flame of the fire.

One of my favorite things about May Day is the maypole dance. I remember participating in one while I was in England and another at my community circle before the passing of my mentor and the falling apart of that community in the wake of her loss.  Both were such magickal experiences for me. While the women dance clockwise (deosil) and the men dance counter clockwise (widdershins) with ribbons in their hands the music plays.  They weave in and out in various patterns depending on the traditions of the city.

In rural cities they would erect it in the middle of the city or village, as they did at the Manor I stayed at for my study abroad.  In the end the pole would be wrapped in beautiful colors. The village I participated in actually used the log of their Yule tree for the maypole.  It is interesting to note that the scribes and judges of the Inquisition had no problem with this heathen act, after all, it was established tradition.

Still, it might have been different had they known the symbolism behind it.  The pole is representative of a penis. The penis of the God in fact.  And the ribbons rhythmically wrapped around in the dance between males and females of the village is a representation of the God as he thrusts into the Goddesses body.  It is a raising of magick and sprit. It raises our heart rate and the web of life is spun once again.

In addition to this charged energy raised, there is another Beltane tradition called the “Calling in of Summer”.  There are many songs sung and danced to bring in the summer, but the most common version was written by Rudyard Kipling. For those of you who don’t know, he wrote the Jungle Book and according to Teaching Witchcraft he was pagan.

His version of the song goes as such:

“Oh do not tell the Priest of our Art,

For he would call it a sin;

But we shall be out in the woods all night,

A conjuring summer in!

And we bring you news, by word of mouth,

For women, cattle, and corn,

Now is the Sun come up from the South,

With Oak and Ash and Thron”

Regardless, of how you choose to celebrate, be it just a bonfire or a bonnie night out with your lover of choice, I can’t help but to feel blessed on this night and I hope all of you can feel the same, or feel something magickal about it.  To me it is everything Valentine ’s Day should be, but even more, with the passion and fire of the Love between the Goddess and the God energizing the very air.

Blessed Be.

The Sparkle in Ostara

Running behind again this week. We’ve had all sorts of doctors appointments and the wee one just started walking. So I’m posting Wed and Fri posts today. Hope you enjoy them and have a wonderful weekend.

Generally celebrated on March 21, Ostara is the Spring Equinox.  The day and night are equal.  It marks the birth of the infant sun God and brings in the warmest season of the year in some traditions. In others it is when the spirit of the young Lord is released into the world, and all life becomes a celebration of the season.  It gets its name from the Goddess Eastre and has to do with the rising sun bringing in the longer days.

It is a time devoted to fertility.  By now, you’ve noticed that a lot of pagan traditions have been translated into Christianity.  Ostara is no different and is most likely the most obvious case we will explore.

Many Christians call it Easter, a holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Christ.  Ostara also celebrates rebirth and rejuvenation.  The young God is born to the Goddess and Jesus is resurrected after his sacrifice against sin.  The very name of Easter is derived from the word Eostar, which means eastern star and that word has been traced back to Ostara.

Ostara is the spring equinox as I said earlier, but Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the Equinox. Seriously….look it up.  That’s also where the egg coloring and the bunny comes from. They are fertility symbols.  Even spring chicks (baby chickens) are a fertility symbol of the season.

Back in the day this was the time in which people would mark or color eggs with prosperity symbols and hide them in the house for their children to find.  Baby chicks are little images of the golden sun, born from eggs, and everyone knows that rabbits mate like mad.

According to Pathos this was also the time of the year in which people returned to eating fresh, rather than cured meats, which is why others say that people of the old religion fasted from Imbolc to Ostara. And as the veggies grew, they no longer had to rely solely on root veggies to survive, which would improve their health and hence, their prosperity.  There are some witches that consider this a very magickal fast as it clears away all the toxins stored in our bodies from the winter months (which works for me because I actually did like lent, it made me appreciate what I couldn’t have).

It may also help that selective fasting can not only help us shed a few pounds, but also can help strengthen our immune systems over the long term.  I haven’t tested this idea of Pathos yet, but I am interested in researching it now that I’ve found it. Next year I’ll have to try to remember to try it and let you all know how it went.

The magick performed this time of year included renewal, balance, and fertility.

And for a random interesting fact….at the exact moment of the solstice, you can balance an egg on its end (the blunt end) and it will stand up for a few minutes until the moment passes (damn you gravity) and it falls over again.

I’m going to stick with this because everything else I found gets into a lot of theories about what could be and I don’t want to get too over the top with theories on the holidays. I try just to include those that seem the most plausible or that are the most amusing….like Odin selling soda in the Yule post.

The Origins of Imbolc/Candlemas

Today we come to Imbolc. It is the first festival of the year by our Roman calendar.  And like Yule, it is celebrated in different ways depending upon your tradition and point of view.  By some traditions it celebrates the young God growing within the Goddess.  In fact, the word Imbolc means “in the belly” in the Celtic tongue.

Imbolc is a celebration of the promise of new life upon the Earth.  It’s not just about the birth of the God, but about all the life that is about to spring from the womb of the earth as the season grows warmer.  It is also often considered a festival to Bridgit, the Celtic Goddess of birth, fertility, inspiration, forgecraft and metal smithing, and domestic arts like cooking and healing.  For many it is yet another time to begin anew in your life.

In addition to being called Imbolc, it is also known as Oimelc, or “Ewe’s milk” in reference to how calves are born and begin to suckle. In some cultures that concept is considered to be re-affirming of the Goddess’s promise of a new year.

In the second version, it is called Candlemas. I’m sure that many of you have at least heard this name.  Candlemas is the festival of lights. In this version the God is honored in a festival centered on purification.  The winter is coming to an end. It is considered a time of purification because it is often a time in which many witches renew their vows to the God and Goddess.

It is no coincidence that that this is the midpoint of winter.  The second of February (Imbolc or Candlemas) is six weeks from the winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Groundhogs day is a runoff of these old traditions, as the people tried to predict where the winter would end or how soon the warmth of spring would come.

There are many similar holidays in other nations. In America Puxatawny Phil tells us if there will be a longer winter. In England, it is the sighting of the first cuckoo of the year and in Australia it’s the kookaburra. All of them relate to a far older myth however.

In Greek mythology, Persephone is abducted by Hades and taken into the underworld. Her mother is so distraught by her loss that she refuses to seed the ground. Hecate goes to Zeus pleading for help, lest the humans that follow them perish without the growth of the Earth.  She tells the king of the Gods that Demeter refuses to touch the earth with her warmth until her daughter is returned. However, her daughter has already eaten or drank from the bounty of the underworld and is bound to Hades.

So an accord is struck, that Persephone will return to her mother to seed the ground, but will reside with Hades during the other half of the year.

Magickal rites performed at this time of year generally relate to purification, reaffirmation, rededication, and picking up those pesky new year resolutions you may have already failed to keep.

This is also where the concept of Lent comes from. The site linked here has a wealth of information about the holiday in addition to what I have already shared. It also has several cited sources to further back up its’s claims. It’s one of the places I like to send people when I’m explaining the holidays. And it’s great if you want some dissertations from a Druid perspective.

February has been a time of purification in many religions.  Those who originally honored Oimelc fasted, refusing to eat meat until Ostara. Sound familiar? Now lent comes from the Old English lecten “spring”. While lent goes back forty days (minus Sunday) from Easter and Easter takes place on the first full moon after the spring equinox.

It had a dual purpose in England. It was the time of the year where it was getting warmer and things were growing, but that food and fuel were usually in short supply.  According to Hutton (cited on the website) it was a time “admirably suited to a period of self-denial and spiritual doubt.”  It made sense that it would become a time of purification with fasting being a form of purification.

Also, if we count back from March 21st those same forty days and seven Sunday’s, we arrive at February 3rd. This is just after Candlemas (Feb 2) and two days after Imbolc (all depending on your tradition’s dates on the subject as well).  Suffice it to say, yet another connection as to what Christianity borrowed from our faith.

Now, interestingly enough Imbolc falls a day before Candlemas, which in the Christian faith is the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary….even though the celebration focuses on the presentation of Jesus in the temple….and not Mary. They may have even started as entirely separate festivals (hence the discrepancy between the dates etc.) and both can be traced back in Christian literature all the way back to the fourth century.

It goes on to talk about several other things that are interesting, but not pertinent to our conversation here. Including the fact that Jesus was most likely not born around the winter solstice, but sometime in the spring, citing dates around May.  The author of the website even suggests that this could have purposely been done in this way to compete with popular pagan festivals.  Or that it may have grown out of them. Either way, the point still stands that there were several holidays related to this concept of purification around this time of the year.

Wheel of the Year: Yule Tide Wishes

Just about everyone loves Christmas, but very few know how it came to incorporate trees and many of the other elements we know and love today. Even fewer realize that there was no way Jesus could have been born in our winter based on the stories and times of the year depicted in the Bible. Still, we muddle along until another pagan shares these things with us.

I actually can’t wait for Christmas this year. I’m going to spend most of the month sharing pagan versions of Christmas songs among other ideas I have rolling around in my mind.  Granted, I have the same ideas for Samhain, but I digress. That’s a post for another day.

The Winter Solstice, a lesser Sabbat, marks the longest night of the year.  It is a time of renewal.  While many cultures celebrate this holiday in different ways, we’re just going to talk about a few of the more common ways here.

There are two main versions of how this part of the cycle of the year goes. The first indicates that the Goddess is pregnant with the God, the second contests that he is born at this time. Some say that the Goddess lies in sleep, mourning her God. Symbolically at midnight, the spark of life is renewed and she awakens from her sleep to find she is pregnant with the God.  To celebrate the news, people exchange gifts and blessings for a prosperous new year.

So why the ideological difference?

Origins of Yule

The word Yule comes from the Norse word “lul”, which means wheel.  There are even some traditions that vary and claim that this is the beginning of the year.  They believe that since Yule is the longest night that the next day must be the beginning of the new year. It’s just a matter of perspective, but not the norm.  The yule birth mythos mirrors that of the solar cycle.

As a side note, Solstice is a Druid word meaning “time stands still”.

Regardless of the mythos you follow, Yule represents life and new promises. That is why we give gifts, though they used to not be as materialistic as we are today. The gifts given back then were blessings or a talisman.  Of course, this appeals to many raised in a Christian household because it allows us to remember our past and still cherish those old traditions.   Not to mention the fact that the Goddess giving birth to the God is mirrored in the story of Jesus.

On the other hand, Ostara birth mythos mirrors the natural growth of plants and the living world.  It is an observance of life, rather than the stars. In this version, the Goddess is aware of the promise of the renewal of the God.  She is aware of the God growing in her body and her joy begins the bounty of the new year.  It allows the days to lengthen and for light to return to the Earth, which of course, allows things to grow.  Here Yule is a time of reflection and renewal or new beginnings.

Where does Santa fit in?

We know he has nothing to do with Christianity itself.  And it’s hard to see what he might have to do with a pregnant Goddess. So what’s the skinny on the big man in the suit?

Santa Claus has many origins. We’re going to talk about three; one well known, the other, not so much.  The first is in Spain as a poor priest, Nicholas, who loved children.  While he himself didn’t have much to give, he took of his time to make the poor children of the city gifts and leave them on their doorsteps at Yule.  Later he was canonized as St. Nicholas, protector of children.

As much as I like the first story, the second catches my fancy much more. In Norway, people would leave offerings of food and clothing for poor families, to help them survive the winter. The offerings were always anonymous. Eventually this tradition came to be known as “Offerings of the Winter Spirits”. In the Norse tongue “winter spirits” is “Sinter Klaus” which would later be anglicized into Santa Claus.

Now Santa has his own interesting story. He was a protective and benevolent deity. He gave of himself for mankind.  There are some who say he can be linked back to Odin. So why does he drive a sleigh with eight reindeer? Well supposedly, as his story was retold via oral tradition, it was changed.  Some say that in the original story, the reindeer isn’t a reindeer at all, but Odin’s eight legged steed Sleipnir. And why a sled? Well, if you think about it, what other vessel made sense for a country covered in winter’s blanket of snow for seven months of the year?

The same happened with elves, as they were mischievous spirits.  A story told many times gets shifted from its original tale. But as their stories became intertwined Santa became associated with the naughty and nice list.

And finally, why a red suit? Well in many Victorian pictures he is seen in a green or brown cloak.  Going further back he’s dressed similarly to the green man. The red suit didn’t come into play until 1931 and a Coca Cola commercial….look it up.

As Miles Batty in Teaching Witchcraft said: “Just Imagine, Odin selling a Coke….what a sight!”

Wheel of the Year: Samhain

So we’ve talked about the Gods and Goddesses, the charge, and some definitions related to the craft. Now it’s time to start talking about Holidays. They are fun for the family. They are a great way to let off stream….and most of them are not going to be on your work’s days off list, which sucks but can be worked around.

Before we get too far, I do want to note that there are some variances on this depending on tradition or just the books in general. I’ll try to note all the discrepancies and let you decide what works for you. Okay?

So what are the Holidays of a witch?

Well most of us still celebrate the general ones, but for us particularly there tend to be eight major Holidays. (Note: Asatru follow a completely different set of Holiday’s. See the Asatru Alliance web page for more info on that.) They are as follows:

Samhain:               October 31                                            Greater Sabbat

Yule:                      December 21(Winter solstice)          Lesser Sabbat

Imbolc:                  February 2:                                            Greater Sabbat

Ostara:                  March 21 (Spring equinox)                 Lesser Sabbat

Beltaine:               May 1                                                     Greater Sabbat

Litha:                     June 21 (Summer Solstice)                 Lesser Sabbat

Lughnassadgh:    August 2                                                 Greater Sabbat

Mabon:                September 21 (Autumn Equinox)       Lesser Sabbat

Essentially we begin and end our year with Samhain in most traditions. And it’s not really considered either a beginning or an end. It’s just a continuance of the cycle.  So let’s start there.

First of all, let’s all learn how to pronounce it correctly its Sow-en. I’m not sure why, probably has something to do with old languages that are beyond me, but that’s how its pronounced in most pagan books, so we’re going to stick with it. No need to make things more complicated right?

God/Goddess Roles

This is the point in the cycle of the year where the God dies.  He remains gone until his rebirth at Ostara (Or Yule, depending on tradition. Trust me the whole mess makes more sense once you learn the whole cycle.)

What do we do?

This is the time of the year where we honor our dead. Many of us light candles to those we have lost in the previous year as well as those who we have lost further back in our past.  Some people meditate, some say they astral travel to other planes (depending on what you believe individually).  Others still take their kids out trick or treating and just hold the meaning of the day in their hearts. It really depends on your life and your perspective.

Me, I like to cook recipes from RavenWolf’s Halloween book. I’m not a fan of most of her work, as I feel she leaves glaring holes in the education of pagans and puts spellwork before the foundations.  It bothers me, but that’s beside the point.  I also trick or treat for charity, taking canned good donations. It depends on the year and what all I’m involved in, but I try to do something to either benefit others or respect those who I’ve lost in my own life over the years.

What is it all about?

It is a celebration of death and renewal.  In Celtic, the name means “end of summer” or “beginning of winter” in old Gaelic.  The druids used to make sacrifices to the Gods for a prosperous year. Usually their sacrifice consisted only of animals, but in harsher times, some men would volunteer to be the sacrifice.  It was an honor to either be chosen or to volunteer as the Gods made life.

However, most witches took a very different approach to this time of the year.  A huge fire was often built in the center of their ritual space or in the town.  It was a symbolic sacred fire.  It represented the spirit or rebirth from the darkness.  People would extinguish every light in their homes before going to ritual and before they returned they took a burning ember from the fire, from which they would relight the hearth for their year.

See, back then most families kept some sort of fire burning in their homes. It was a necessity to make bread, to cook food, to heat the home. It was the heart of the kitchen and what many believe to be the earliest beginnings of the Kitchen Witch.

Samhain is the time between times. Just as it is considered the day that the veil between the worlds is at its weakest.  Lanterns are set outside door ways to guide the dead back home for a visit. Offerings are placed at doors as both a welcome and a hope that they will return home at the end of the night instead of haunting them.  Sigils are hung to protect the home from dark energies.

It is also known in some cultures as the third harvest.  It was the time at which the people pulled together their final provisions for the harsh winter.  It was the time that villages put down any animals that they thought would not last the winter. They had to make sure that what would not survive the cold could be preserved to fill their bellies in the harsh cold.

It was also a time when people disregarded old habits and tried to pick up new ones. Sounds like our modern day resolutions, only this has been around much longer. It is considered more powerful to make such resolutions on this day due to its nature of being between times.  There is also often a feast to usher in the new year.

Types of Magick

Usually this is a time of the year where people banish negative aspects from their lives. The magick on this day is going to relate to getting rid of something negatively affecting your life or a renewal of something good in your life.

Pumpkins and Trick Or Treating

So what’s the deal with pumpkins and Halloween? Well back in the day, they considered this a time when we could commune with the dead. So they would light candles to guide them back to us right? Well, they wanted to make sure that the candles didn’t go out, so they placed them in gourds or, yes, pumpkins.

Where did carving them come into the picture? Well, families would mark the vessel with names, runes, and talisman of luck for the departed as well as the family.  Eventually, when the holiday was converted into a night of fear and costume, the natural thing to do was to carve scary faces into them. Some also say that the scary faces were carved into pumpkins to scare away evil spirits.

And what about trick or treating? Well, that’s another old tradition. It was once believed that departed spirits, if not properly welcomed with food, would leave marks, hexes or unpleasant gifts at your door. This eventually evolved into costumes and candies…and upset children if you weren’t passing out candy lol.

And with that I leave you to ponder the first of the Eight Sabbats.

Blessed Be.

For more information there are a wealth of sites on the web talking about Samhain. You can also look to teaching Witchcraft by Miles Batty, my source for this article. It’s in my reading list.

Integrity: Not Just Talking the Talk

Tags: integrity,  pagan ethics, faith, right and wrong

I occasionally go down the rabbit hole and end up spending vast amounts of time on WitchVox. It’s a great site if you haven’t been there. Just don’t let the old coding and décor fool you. It’s got a wealth of information if you can muddle your way through its horrible organization, or lack thereof. The other day I was reading a 101 article about integrity and it got me to thinking about how important integrity is to us both as pagans and as people.

Integrity should be an important part of all of our lives. However, we know that there are many people who live far outside this.  It seems like no matter what culture, religion, or group I go to join, there are those who just can’t seem to grasp this concept.  To me integrity is important in the people I want in my life, the people I trust. However, it is also important to a witch.

I have been asked by many friends how I became a witch or how one can begin the journey down this path. I tell them that there isn’t just one way and that all I can do is share with them what I’ve learned.  The vast majority of which is how to discern the whey from the chaff….or the useful from the destructive. And a lot of that has to do with integrity.

Now whether you are pagan or not, think about the following questions and answers.

What is Integrity?

Well according to the good ol’ Oxford Dictionary is means “The condition of having no part or element taken away or wanting: undivided or unbroken state; material wholeness, completely, entirety.” It also means “The condition of not being marred or violated; unimpaired or uncorrupted; a condition of soundness.” I like to view it as having your shit together (well as much as any of us can).

Why is it important?

There is a reason many traditions ask a new follower to take a year and a day before they decide if this is the path for them. First, they want to get to know you. Second, they want you to get to know yourself in the context of the craft. Three, they don’t want you to make any rash decisions. And finally, they want people who aren’t going to bail on them for stupid reasons or because they suddenly changed their mind. They plan on investing time on you if you stick around.

The same thing goes for a solitary but for different reasons. In this case, you want to make sure it isn’t a waste of your time. You want to make sure you know what you are getting into. You want to protect yourself. Personally, I think it’s easier to understand this from the traditions perspective, but that is what you are doing when you take a year and a day as a solitary.

The truth is that before you can truly study the craft you have to know yourself. You have to be able to judge what is right and wrong for you. In the context of the craft this means learning the fundamentals and seeing if you can live with yourself in the craft. Just jumping into everything else only muddies the waters and, if you did choose incorrectly, you may end up harming yourself from an emotional/intellectual perspective.

Many of the problems we have in the craft today would not exist were it not for people who decided just to jump in.  Or maybe they tried to reinvent it to suit their purposes. Either way, it isn’t good for the individual or the community as a whole.

The importance of a promise

Without integrity we cannot make promises to ourselves. It makes us more likely to fail in our endeavors and more likely to harm others. This makes it more likely for that individual lacking integrity to end up violating the principle of An It Harm None.  Part of choosing this path involves thinking about what you are and are not willing to do in your life. Does that harm none mean that you have to be wiser in your words and actions? Does it mean that you have to stop eating meats or anything produced from an animal? Does it mean that you need to do more charitable work?  What does it mean in the context of someone attacking you and your own? Does it mean that you do not have the right to protect yourself?

You have to consider your values in the context of An It Do No Harm.  The problem with people lacking in integrity is that they cannot make a promise to follow something because they don’t think through what all that promise could mean. They realize that they cannot fulfill that promise because it’s not how they are willing to live.

There is a reason our ancestors or predecessors were known as the Wise Ones.  They were healers who helped others.  They were leaders who did their best to make the right decisions. They walked the walk and talked the talk of doing no harm to others. They made promises and they kept them. If we want to honor their path and not just stamp on it with muddy boots, we have to make the same considerations.

How to: Integrity

The first part of integrity is being able to figure out what is right and wrong. It’s a philosophical question you are going to face no matter what your religion is. It’s also a choice we have to make for ourselves.  Personally, I don’t believe in absolute right and wrong for the most part. As a general rule I think it’s wrong to kill someone, but I don’t think that a parent defending loved ones from someone trying to kill them is wrong, even if it results in a horrific tragedy.  In my mind there are things that are more right than others and there are shades of grey.

The point is that we have to create our own quotient of what is right and wrong. We also have to be able to review and admit when our perspective was wrong. It’s not something that will happen overnight. It’s something that takes time. This is a religion based in personal responsibility and personal power. If you can’t own it and be honest about what you’re doing, right or wrong, you need to walk away now.

Second, you have to be willing to do the right thing no matter what. If you have discerned that (only as an example) GMO’s are against the natural ways of life, then you have to fight for that. If the coven you have grown to love wants to do a spell that you take issue with, you have to stand against that, even if it could lead to you leaving the group. You have to be willing to rise against peer pressure among many other things.

You have to decide if your place in the group is more important than your values. If that group is more important than your own integrity, then you’ve already compromised yourself and risk doing harm by ignoring the harm of others.  To me, I could keep the friends and disagree, but I couldn’t be a part of that group anymore. It would be tainted and there would be a good chance that I would be faced with the same moral temptations again.  Part of integrity is testing whether or not you can live up to your own moral expectations.

As a side note, ignoring your own moral values can harm you. It creates a division within your own mind that can be detrimental to your own health. A lot of people are in counseling because of their own inconsistencies. I know that I have been there in the past myself. So, when considering these issues also think about the damage you could be doing to yourself.

Finally, you have to keep your commitments to yourself and others. We are our actions. People judge us and create perceptions of who we are based on those actions. They are important. We have to openly declare where we stand and stand by it.  If you can’t stand by your commitments, how can you commit yourself to a deity? Or even to the divine as a generalization?

This is a religion about service and it’s hard to serve anything without integrity.

Integrity vs. the Craft.

Okay so this section is very much a take on the final section of the article that inspired this one. The link will be at the end of the post. I want to show how so much of what we do is related to integrity. How without integrity we cannot live up to the ideas of this faith. This is a faith that is about service and respecting not only the earth, but all who reside on it. It takes integrity.  It takes knowing yourself and understanding your own perspective of what that means. This is a part of our personal ethics and dictates how we interact with others.

We are not about power for ourselves, we are about empowering others. Yes we use magick to make our own lives better, but we also should be using it to help those who cannot, to empower them. There are too many who act as though magick is for only their own personal gain. It is about helping those in need.  It isn’t about pulling others down so we can climb; it is about building others up and creating new and healthier systems for our world.

It is not about getting more, but giving more. Yes, most of us do spells to help ourselves, though we tend to think carefully about what we do so as to not cause harm. However, in the craft we believe that what you put out comes back to you and that goes way beyond spells and prayers. It is about actions. The more good we put out into the world, the more good we find in our lives. The opposite is also true.

It is not about changing other around you, but changing and growing within yourself. You have to grow to connect with those around you. You cannot and should not expect the world to bow to you.

It is not about wealth, it is about sharing your wealth with the community. I’m not saying to go out and shower money on people. I’m saying that we aren’t here to make money off what we believe and do. It is fine to write a book, it is wrong to extort people by overcharging for that book or any other services you may render.  I understand making a living, but the craft should be far more about how you can help others and that will give you a different, better kind of wealth.

To quote my inspiration: It is about keeping promises, going the extra mile, doing what is correct and for the good of all. It is about uprightness, honor, truth, healing, giving and service.

 

It is about honoring the God and Goddess. Not materialism. Not ANYTHING else. 

 

To do all of these things we have to be committed. WE have to have integrity. We have to have a heart and love for others in the world. Yes, integrity is important. Not only for those in the Craft, but for anyone who values love, respect, and world harmony. We all have places where we can improve, but it really does start with knowing ourselves so that we can live under our own integrity.

Blessed Be.

Ps the article that inspired this one is called Witchcraft 101: Integrity….Making that Choice.

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